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St. John’s Bread & Life’s Lenten Mission: 40 Days, 40,000 Meals for the Hungry

The fundraising effort will allow St. John’s Bread & Life to increase the number of hot meals that volunteers prepare and pack for the thousands of people the organization feeds. (Photos: Paula Katinas)


BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Dawn Brabham has been coming to St. John’s Bread & Life for many years to pick up hot nutritious meals to help her get through the day.

“This place is extremely vital. I really depend on this place,” she said as she stood in the busy hallway near the entrance of St. John’s Bread & Life’s headquarters on Lexington Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant on the morning of Wednesday, March 6.

Brabham is one of an estimated 1,500 people a day who are given takeout meals by the folks at St. John’s Bread & Life, a nonprofit organization that has fed the hungry since 1982.

For Lent, St. John’s Bread & Life has stepped up its efforts with an ambitious fundraising program aimed at providing 40,000 meals for the 40 days of Lent. And the organization is well on its way toward fulfilling that goal. 

According to Sister Marie Sorenson, SC, associate executive director, the organization has set a goal of raising $40,000. Then they raised its fundraising target to $45,000. As of March 6, it had raised nearly $35,000.

Aside from the money, the Lenten fundraiser is important because it also serves to remind Catholics of the importance of performing charitable acts, said Sister Marie, who is a Sister of Charity-Halifax. “It’s really to highlight a Lenten observance and that highlights the corporal works of mercy,” she explained.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, the corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead.

“So during Lent, we like to engage our donors and people who are interested in the work of Bread & Life to consider that during this time of Lent, which is so important to us, to consider feeding the hungry, which we do 365 days a year,” Sister Marie said.

This is the third year in a row that St. John’s Bread & Life has conducted its Lenten fundraiser. 

“We started out very simply. But apparently, it really struck a chord with people, and we find great success running this campaign. People really feel connected. They feel like their little bit is adding to making the world better for people who are most in need,” Sister Marie added.

St. John’s Bread & Life was founded in 1982 to provide assistance to food insecure residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Originally headquartered in St. John the Baptist Church, the organization moved to its current headquarters in 2008.

In addition to providing hot meals at its headquarters, St. John’s Bread & Life operates a food pantry there that allows clients — the organization prefers to call them guests — to select fresh fruits and vegetables and canned goods as if they are shopping in a supermarket. The food pantry serves approximately 400 people a day.

The organization also operates a mobile kitchen — a food truck that cooks and serves meals to people in neighborhoods throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Aside from its food services, St. John’s Bread & Life also helps guests apply for public assistance programs.

Jillian Battey has been coming to St. John’s Bread & Life for food for four years, starting during the pandemic. 

The prepared meals are very important to her, she said. “It helps me and my daughter. Some days, I don’t have anything to cook so the meals will be something she can have. Like today, we’re having cheeseburgers and french fries and she loves that,” Battey said.

She was so grateful for the services the organization provides that she started volunteering there a couple of days a week.

The volunteers get as much out of it as the guests do, said Julieta Thornhill, who has been volunteering for 22 years. She enjoys her work, especially feeding people, because it allows her to receive spiritual nutrition.

“This is my calling in my spiritual life — to help people, assist people. Every time I give, God provides more for me,” said Thornhill, who opened her wallet as well as her heart and donated to the Lent fundraiser.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 18th, 2024 at 9:13 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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